The recent opening of a Golden Corral in Casper Wyoming produced quite the buzz of conversation, just not what the Norovirus-like symptoms after eating at the restaurant. Norovirus is transmitted by fecal contamination of food or water.
Public health director Robert Harrington’s response was what caught my eye: “We now have reports of 167 people who have self-reported their illness, and all report dining at that particular restaurant. That doesn’t completely indict the restaurant, but it does make a suggestive association.” I realize the need to be fair and judicious but 167 sick customers would seem a bit more than “suggestive.” However, there has been an increase in food borne illnesses in the area.
The story raises an interesting causation question if the actual source is not found in the restaurant. In a negligence action, that leaves the circumstantial case of looking at the sheer numbers, timing, and odds. This is not uncommon in food sickness cases but with the increase in such reported illnesses it would require probability testimony from a witness presumably. Judges can be somewhat leery of such testimony but it has been allowed in past cases.